January 29, 2018
The Best Time to Go to Africa + Baby Animals of Hwange National Park

The Best Time to Go to Africa + Baby Animals of Hwange National Park

January 29, 2018

So when is the best time to go to Africa? In reality, there's no bad time to go and no two trips are alike, so while they still have peak, shoulder, and low season, don't let that limit you. Each season has its own pros and cons with the pros outnumbering the cons in all three seasons. Some people are lucky enough to travel whenever they want to, but other people are limited to school holidays or work vacation days, either way, there's an Africa safari trip out there for you. 

Lyndon and I went to Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa in the beginning of December and while that is considered the beginning of low season, we still saw so many beautiful animals (and their babies). So while I didn't get to see the massive watering hole gatherings that occur during peak season, I did get to see a baby zebra, days old, next to his mom.

In African safari jargon, their seasons are also known as dry season (peak season) and green season (low season). Dry season is during the winter months when it's, you guessed it, dry, and vegetation is scarce. Green season is during the summer months when the rains bring life back to the forests and plains. Because of the abundant of grass and leaves in green season, a lot of animals give birth during this time. The lush greenery also helps with protection. Moms can hide their babies in thick bushes, hiding them from lions, dogs and other predators.

We were lucky enough to see so many baby animals while in Africa, especially in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. In addition to all the babies, we also saw a handful of expecting mothers. Some look like they were ready to pop! One of our guides told us that we could possibly see one give birth if our timing was right, but we never got that chance. Did you know African elephants' gestation period is 22 months? And I thought 9 months was long. Which one of these babies is your favorite? Mine has to be the cute baby hippo. When we first drove by this adorable family, mother and baby were just chilling in the water (like they usually do during the day), but when we saw them again on our way back to camp, the baby got curious and got out of the water. I was freaking out cause I absolutely love baby hippos! Our guide told us that we were probably the first guests to ever see this baby out of the water since he/she was only about two months old. Some people leave Africa happy they got to see lions and leopards, I'm happy I got to see a baby hippo.     

Each season is unique and offers a different experience. Whenever you do decide to go on safari, I can almost bet you'll have an amazing time. Most of my past travels have been to Europe, I love photographing the unique architecture and charm European cities have to offer, but after a day or two on safari, Africa stole my heart.          


Peak Season | High Season | Dry Season - June to October 

Pros: 

With limited water around the national parks, watering holes and rivers are packed with wildlife
Game viewing is easier due to the thin foliage and lack of tall grass
Because of the cooler temperatures, animals are active longer
There are less mosquitoes (and reptiles for those of you scared of snakes like I am)

Cons:

Definitely the most expensive time to go, think $900/night vs. $500/night
Some areas are super crowded during this time with multiple vehicles out at the same time
It can get super cold in the early mornings and late evenings (bring layers)

Low Season | Wet Season | Green Season - January to March

Pros:

The green, lush landscapes make for great photographs
Baby animals, the abundant of food and water make green season the perfect time to give birth
More baby animals equal more predator action
Less expensive than peak season by sometimes 50%
No crowds around the park or at the camps, we pretty much had our own vehicle the entire trip

Cons:

In some countries, you can get rained on during game drives like we did in Botswana
It can get hot during the day, it's the summer, in Africa, so yeah pretty hot

Shoulder Season - April to May, November to December

Shoulder season is pretty much in the middle in every sense of the way. It's not as hot or as cold. It's not as expensive or as cheap.

Overview

For first time safari goers, there's nothing wrong with saving some money and going in January or February. Some famous events like the wildebeest migration across the Mara River in Kenya and the Okavango Delta flood in Botswana only occur during dry season, so there's no escaping peak season pricing there. Keep in mind that not all of Africa follows the same tourism schedule. While it was low season in the African bush, it was high season while we were in Cape Town. Like everywhere else in the world, people flock to the beaches during the summer months. We initially wanted to stay three nights in Cape Town but winded up only staying two cause of availability. The whole city was pretty much booked, and this was during their insane water shortage too (which is sadly still going on).

So when is the best time to go to Africa? The answer is whenever you want! Pick a season that best fits your schedule and budget and you'll be set. Like I mentioned above, no two trips are alike so don't worry about getting FOMO if you go during one season and a friend goes during another. If you don't already know, Lyndon sells photographic African safaris with his dad and brother. Their company is called Fish Eagle Safaris and if you are interested in going on your first safari or your 10th, shoot him an email. He can price out different packages for you (at no additional costs to the client), so definitely take advantage of his resources. Plus a lot of safari camps require you to book through a 3rd party company like Lyndon's. So when are you going to Africa?             


Don't forget to follow along on social media!
Bloglovin' | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

I am linking up with these link ups and blog hops!
January 24, 2018
My First Official Morning Game Drive // Chobe National Park

My First Official Morning Game Drive // Chobe National Park

January 24, 2018

Our first day on safari, we spent cruising up and down the Chobe River but the next morning, I went on my first official morning game drive. We had a 4:30 wake up call (earliest wake up call during our entire trip) and after some coffee, we were on the road by 5:30. The morning was fairly quiet, especially compared to the late lion sighting we saw the evening prior but after a short while, we started spotting some wildlife.

Baboons, we saw lots of baboons. They were everywhere that morning in Chobe National Park. Like I mentioned in my last post, we were in Africa during "green season" or also known as the rainy season. It's when the weather is hot but also rainy and makes the landscape green and lush. With the vibrant and full vegetation, comes all the babies! A lot of animals give birth during this time so their young ones will have plenty of food and water nearby and also the thick greenery offer great protection from predators. During the drive (and during our trip), we saw lots of babies animals and it was absolutely adorable. Technically, high season for African safaris is during their winter months because of the lack of rain and the scarcity of water. Because of this, large number of animals can be easily seen at the limited watering holes in the national park. While I would love to witness hundreds of elephant and buffaloes surround a single watering hole, I love the fact that I got to see so many baby animals during my trip.      


Our morning was filled with baboons, jackals, warthogs, giraffes and so many impalas. Impalas are known as the "McDonald's of the national park"... because they are everywhere. I laughed when our driver told us this. Even though we did eventually see a lion towards the end of our drive, the highlight of the morning drive for me was the tower of giraffes we saw. They were just minding their own business, eating their breakfast, making their way from one side of the road to the other, even crossing right in front of our vehicle. Giraffes are such cool and unique animals and some of my best photographs during our trip (in my opinion), are of these beautiful animals. They are so crazy tall but oddly enough, when they run, it looks incredibly graceful. Giraffes are amazing, nuff said. 

Like I mentioned earlier, we saw our only lion of the day towards the end of our drive. We were actually heading back to the lodge when we saw a lone lioness in a field. She looked bloody probably from another lion or a resilient prey. Lionesses are usually not by themselves so seeing this one alone was odd. Hopefully she made it back to her pride okay.

We ended our drive with an adorable family of mongooses. Mongooses are little badasses. They look super cute but don't let that cuteness fool you. These guys are snake killers, venomous ones too. They are resistant or immune to snake venom and are known for killing cobras. There are a lot of very poisonous snakes in Africa so these little guys can eat as many of them as they want!

After our drive, we headed back to the lodge and had brunch. This would end our time at Chobe Game Lodge and we were off to our next camp, Chobe Chilwero Lodge. If you read my itinerary post, you know that we were coming and going the entire trip. It was sad to leave such a beautiful lodge, but I was excited to see what else Chobe had to offer.          


Don't forget to follow along on social media!
Bloglovin' | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

I am linking up with these link ups and blog hops!
January 17, 2018
The Perfect Day on the Chobe River // Chobe National Park

The Perfect Day on the Chobe River // Chobe National Park

January 17, 2018

Our first stop during our whirlwind trip (and my first Africa national park ever) was Chobe National Park in Botswana. Chobe National Park is located in northern Botswana and is Botswana's first national park, becoming a national park from a game reserve in 1967. The national park covers 4,517 square miles (Connecticut is 5,543 square miles for comparison) and is home to one of the best game viewing in all of Africa. 

From Johannesburg, I flew into Kasane Airport which sits just outside the northern most part of the national park. Lyndon was already in Kasane for a couple of days for a conference, so he was waiting for me at the airport. At this point, I have been traveling for what felt like days so I was ready to finally be "on safari". From the airport, our driver from Chobe Game Lodge picked us up in her open vehicle and we headed into Chobe National Park towards the lodge. 

According to Lyndon, I got incredibly spoiled during my first transfer. Transfers are just exactly that, they are either taking you to/from the airport or to your next lodge or destination. On this transfer, we saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, impalas for days, warthogs and even a dung beetle. We almost missed our first official game drive (the river cruise) because we stopped so many times to take pictures of all the animals. I felt like a kid excitedly pointing to animals and saying their name, "elephant!", "giraffe!"... kind of like what toddlers do when they see a dog, "puppy!" I saw more wildlife during that transfer than some of our game drives. Only bad thing was that since I thought we were just driving to our lodge, I wasn't expecting to see so many animals so my cameras were packed away in my bag. I did manage to finally unpack them towards the end and got a few shots in. 


After finally arriving at Chobe Game Lodge, we quickly went to our (gorgeous) room to freshen up a bit before our Chobe River Cruise. The Chobe River has many names, it is the Cuando River through Angola and Namibia, the Linyanti River below that, and to the east, it is the Chobe River before it turns into the Zambezi River. Chobe Game Lodge sits right on the river and offers river cruises as one of their game drives. It's a nice relaxing alternative to a typical vehicle game drive and a great way to start or end your safari vacation. 

We were on the boat with a guy from Florida, a couple (newlyweds) from Botswana, and our guide, Connie. The boat was electric which I thought was a nice touch and seated us comfortably with plenty of room to walk around to get the perfect angle. We had all kinds of drinks and snacks on board and I thought to myself, I could definitely get used to this. Even from the boat, we could see all different kinds of wildlife including elephants, African fish eagles, crocodiles, and hippos to name a few. We even saw a float of crocodiles in the water eating an elephant carcass that a pride of lions had killed. And speaking of lions, we saw a couple of lions in the distance and Connie asked us if we wanted to head back to the lodge and hop in one of the vehicles and to try to find the them... of course we all said, heck yeah! 

By this time, the sky was starting to look ominous. December, which is their summer, is known as green season. It's when it rains and everything is plush and green. When we got back to the lodge, we all hopped into the vehicle and took off to where we saw the lions from the boat. Connie was booking it through the national park, and my adrenaline was sky high as we were trying to find the lions before they head deep into the park. Connie started slowing down and to our left, behind some thick greenery, you can see a male lion just relaxing. It was hard to get a picture cause he was still pretty far away and behind a bush, but seeing my first lion in Africa was pretty exciting. We stayed there for a good while just admiring his beauty and presence... until the sky opened up.

Connie handed everyone a poncho and I quickly put mine on and used it to also cover my camera bag. While the vehicles have a "roof" on them, it's mainly used as shade so we were getting soaked. It was like that scene in Forest Gump, we were getting hit with little bitty stinging rain, big ole fat rain, and lots of rain that flew in sideways. At this point, I just kept my head down to avoid getting rain in my eyes and every turn Connie made, I would get soaked with the rain water coming off the roof. I could not wait to get back to the lodge but then Connie stopped and I heard her say "...lion". I looked up and couldn't see anything until Lyndon pointed right next to the vehicle, maybe 5 feet away, a pride of lionesses just sitting by a bush in the rain. They were so close! And not even fazed by the pouring rain. I didn't want to chance my DSLR in the rain, so I just took a couple of pictures with my iPhone and of course, posted it on Instagram Stories. 

After we got back to our room, soaking wet, a thought came to mind... this was only day one!
                      

Don't forget to follow along on social media!
Bloglovin' | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

I am linking up with these link ups and blog hops!